Little Grebe – 1994

Tachybaptus ruficollis – GWYACH FACH – Breeding resident and winter visitor

Map produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre
Breeding confirmed6
Breeding probable3
Breeding possible5
No of tetrads occupied14 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads2.9%

Mathew (1894) stated that the Little Grebe was a breeding species in Pembrokeshire but was more frequent in the winter months. Lockley et al. (1949) considered that it did not breed but was numerous in the winter. Saunders (1976) also regarded it as a non-breeder.

Lloyd proved breeding at Llambed in 1936 and suspected it at Slebech in 1937. Breeding was proved at Thornton in 1965, at Pembroke Mill Pond in 1975, at Trefloyne in 1981 and was suspected at Bosherston Pools during the 1970s and 1980s. The Dyfed Wildlife Trust Breeding Birds Survey of 1984-1988 discovered that about a dozen pairs of Little Grebes bred. The localities included Llambed where the grebes were particularly secretive and difficult to see, just as Lloyd noted in 1936, and it is tempting to think that they may have bred there throughout the intervening years.

The Little Grebe is more widespread and numerous in the winter months, when it can be found on estuaries and fresh waters, often occurring on quite small farm irrigation reservoirs. Up to five birds is normal at most localities but there are sometimes larger gatherings at favoured spots: up to seven in the Nevem Estuary, ten at Bosherston Pools, 13 at Carew/Cresswell, 32 at the Gann and in Hook Reach and 40 at Pembroke Mill Pond, the total winter population being about 150 birds. The numbers and pattern of occurrence noted by Lloyd (1925-1937) are consistent with that seen today, suggesting that Lockley et al. were interpreting a similar situation when they described this bird as “numerous”.

Little Grebes have not been seen migrating during the day and it is presumed that the occasional occurrence of birds at Skokholm and Skomer and on the open sea off Strumble Head refer to grounded night migrants. 

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

LLOYD, B. 1925—1939. Diaries. National Library of Wales

SAUNDERS, D.R. 1976. A brief guide to the birds of Pembrokeshire. Five Arches Press

More about the Little Grebe in Pembrokeshire